Two homes were destroyed, 20 residences were evacuated and two people received non-life threatening injuries early Thursday in Adair County after a natural gas transportation line exploded, leaving a 60-foot crater near Highway 76 in Knifley.
The first call came in at about 1:04 a.m. CST when residents heard and felt rumbling under their feet, said Adair County Emergency Management Agency director Greg Thomas. Then came the explosion and a ball of fire, he said.
Three homes, two barns and as many as six vehicles caught fire after the blast, he said. Two of the three homes were completely destroyed.
The 30-inch natural gas line was about 100 feet from Highway 76 buried 30 feet down in the side of the hill. When it blew, the result was catastrophic, Thomas said.
"There is now a crater 60 feet deep and it blew rocks out, and I don't mean pebbles ... big rocks," he said, adding a 20- to 30-foot section of pipe was thrown more than 300 feet.
After the explosion 20 homes in the area were evacuated and residents will not be able to return home until the state fire marshal says it is safe to do so, Thomas said.
The gas line is used to transport natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico to New York and was not servicing homes in the area, he said.
By 6 a.m. CST, the fires were under control but not completely out, said Kentucky State Police trooper Billy Gregory.
"Basically at this point everything is contained and they're working to get the rest of the fire out," he said.
The explosion happened in a rural section of northern Adair County about 100 miles south of Louisville. "I wouldn't call it dense at all," Gregory said.
Columbia Gulf Transmission detected a drop in gas pressure in the pipe at the time of the explosion determined there was a rupture and immediately responded to the scene to isolate the damaged section of pipe, the company said in a release. The flow of gas to the pipe was cut off but the fire was still burning, Thomas said.
Emergency personnel are standing by as the remaining gas in the line is burned off and the fire will eventually go out on its own, he said.
It was still dark when emergency crews responded to the scene so they are still not entirely sure how extensive the damage is, Thomas added.
"We're looking forward to daylight just to see," he said.